Explain Atticus's statement in Chapter 9 of To Kill a Mockingbird: "...the answer is she knows I know she tries. That's what makes a difference."

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gmuss25 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In chapter 9, Uncle Jack and Atticus are discussing Scout's "hotheadedness," and Atticus tells his brother that Scout needs to learn to control her anger before she becomes a target of the prejudiced community in the coming months. Atticus is aware that Scout's temper will be tested as Tom Robinson's trial approaches and fears that she will cause more trouble for herself attempting to protect her pride by fighting.

However, Atticus notices that Scout tries her best to manage her temper but is not fully capable of controlling her spontaneous reactions when provoked. Although Scout struggles to keep a cool head, Atticus recognizes and appreciates his daughter's effort. Atticus tells his brother,

"No, the answer is she knows I know she tries. That’s what makes the difference." (90)

Even though Scout makes mistakes and ends up getting into occasional confrontations, she appreciates that her father acknowledges that she is attempting to remain calm and control her temper. Atticus once again demonstrates his positive parenting skills by acknowledging Scout's effort instead of the results. As the novel progresses, Scout matures and learns to control her anger.

bullgatortail eNotes educator| Certified Educator

This quotation comes following the Finches' eventful Christmas Day at the Landing. Once again, Scout has lost her temper and gotten into another fight--and again winning--a battle with a boy, her obnoxious Cousin Francis.

     This time I split my knuckle to the bone on his front teeth.  (Chapter 9)

Atticus and his brother Jack are discussing Scout's "hotheadedness," and Atticus is defending his daughter, explaining that Scout has made progress but that she still needs "assistance sometimes." Although Scout still has a long way to go, and Atticus knows that the upcoming months before the Tom Robinson trial will be even worse for her, he also realizes that she is trying her best to hold her temper when her pride is at stake. Atticus may not be completely happy with the results, but he is pleased with her effort.

"... the answer is she knows I knows she tries. That's what makes the difference."  (Chapter 9)

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To Kill a Mockingbird

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